Inspiration is key - tailoring educational programmes to raise entrepreneurial intention among students
Inspiration generated by charismatic tutors is found to be the most influential aspect of programmes which aim to spark entrepreneurial intent among science and engineering students.
Although the alleged benefits of entrepreneurship education have been much extolled by researchers and educators, the actual impact of entrepreneurship programmes on students’ intentions to start a business remains relatively untested. The paper Do entrepreneurship programmes raise entrepreneurial intention of science and engineering students. The effect of learning, inspiration, and resources aims to redress this paucity of study.
It poses two specific research questions:
1. Do entrepreneurship education programmes raise entrepreneurial attitudes and intent of students?
2. Which programme-derived benefits raise entrepreneurial attitudes and intent?
Entrepreneurship programmes in two universities (London and Grenoble) provided the data for the research. 124 students took the programme and a control group of 126 students did not. Both sets of students were studying either science or engineering.
The effect of three proposed entrepreneurship programme-derived benefits on the student groups were tested, these being: learning, inspiration, and resource-utilisation.
The results showed that:
(a) Entrepreneurial attitudes and intention were raised in the group that took the programme;
(b) Entrepreneurial attitudes and intention were not seen to be raised in the control group;
(c) Of the three programme benefits monitored, inspiration was found to be most related to the increase of self-employment intention and therefore, the intention to become an entrepreneur.
The main practical implication for entrepreneurship programme developers is that whereas knowledge and resources may increase the likelihood of success for those who are going to start a new venture, it is inspiration that increases the chances that students will actually attempt such a venture in the first place.
If the aim is to increase the number of entrepreneurs then the inspirational part of the programme is key, and should be considered carefully during course design. Teachers should be trained not only to teach about entrepreneurship but also to change the “hearts and minds” of the students. This could be achieved by appointing charismatic teachers who can communicate their enthusiasm for entrepreneurship through both verbal and non-verbal expressiveness. It could also be encouraged through the use of entrepreneurs’ stories that can teach the highs and lows of the entrepreneurship journey.
Co-author of the report, Dr Stefania Zerbinati, commented on the importance of compelling story-telling in teaching:
"Telling stories is an important part of our lives. It is part of who we are and where we come from. Since ancient times, important values and lessons about life were handed down to the next generation through stories. Stories are such an innate part of our lives we often neglect their importance as a source of knowledge. All the entrepreneurs I met have remarkable stories of how they started, what motivated them and how they grew their ventures. All of them own amazing, great stories of success and sometimes of failure – which are of high value for both learning and inspiration to students."
Universities that want to assess the effectiveness of their programmes should capture not only how much their students learn about entrepreneurship or whether they are satisfied with the courses but also whether they were inspired by the programme. Including a measure for inspiration in any course feedback form is advised.
The paper Do entrepreneurship programmes raise entrepreneurial intention of science and engineering students. The effect of learning, inspiration, and resources was published in Journal of Business Venturing.
The accepted version of the paper is available for download at the link below.